Report: Hidden expulsions? Schools kick students out but call it a ‘transfer’

A recent report summarized in an April 4, 2023, Los Angeles Times article highlights school transfers, a largely hidden segment of the school-to-prison pipeline. According to the Hechinger Report, transfers “represent a large yet hidden share of California’s exclusionary discipline, blocking students from attending their own schools and pushing them onto new campuses or into smaller, alternative schools,” creating “the same problems associated with expulsion by disrupting a child’s education.”

The Equal Justice Society and our partners have, over the past decade, challenged on a systemic basis such use of transfers as harmful, unlawful, and racially discriminatory, including in R.W. v. Thurmond, a lawsuit that alleges that the California Department of Education and state Superintendent lack accountability for and have failed to take required actions to address racially disproportionate transfers and other harmful disciplinary practices in school districts around the state.

As the L.A. Times article explains, California’s largest school districts collectively transfer tens of thousands of students involuntarily, or “voluntarily” under pressure to avoid formal expulsion. “Transfers are being used as a backdoor way of removing kids from school,” said Chelsea Helena to the L.A. Times. “And it’s impacting Black and brown kids more.” Helena is an education attorney with Neighborhood Legal Services of Los Angeles County and co-counsel with EJS in R.W. v. Thurmond.

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